Beach Day by Rodger Bliss
May 2024

The Elephant in the Room

This is a real story from “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” which happened in ancient China almost 2000 years ago:

One day, Sun Quan gave king Cao Cao an elephant as a present. Cao Cao was very pleased and he rushed to see the arrival of the elephant with his seven year old son and his many ministers.

A crowd formed around the elephant, awed by the size of the gigantic creature. The elephant’s legs were the size of pillars. ┬áThe people who stood under it could not even reach its stomach!

Cao Cao said: “This elephant is enormous! But how much does it weigh?!”

A discussion opened between the ministers. One said: “We need to make the world’s biggest scale to weigh this elephant!” Another said: “That is not possible! Let’s kill the elephant, chop it up, and weigh the pieces!” Other’s began to laugh at some of the comments, “We cannot kill this behemoth! It is a gift for the emperor!” Cao Cao agreed, the elephant was not to be killed. But Cao Cao was still very intrigued by how much this elephant must have weighed.

A while later, Cao Cao’s son, Cao Chong had an idea of how to weigh the creature. How did he do it? Are you as smart as this seven year old?

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2 guesses to The Elephant in the Room

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  • Judd

    I’ve actually heard this before. Something to the lines of coaxing the elephant into a boat, mark the water line, then remove the elephant. You would have to then add weights to the boat until you reach the water line.
    In theory, it would work just fine. The idea of a seven year old coming up with it is far-fetched. I guess they were much more educated in ancient times!

  • Dude

    Correct, Judd.

    Put the elephant in a boat. Measure the waterline depth. Coax the elephant off the boat and add known weights until the boat sinks to the marked waterline.

    You are today’s winner.